Back to the drawing board

I’ve just returned from meeting one of our clients for my summer projects: a professor in my college’s art department. What we have developed over the last three weeks is essentially a way to stitch together fixed images into probability-controlled tilings. However, it turns out that what our artist friends really need is more fine grained image control. They want to be able to create much more interesting patterns combining both images and geometric patterns. As I was explaining how our program worked, I realized that our instruction language model was rather complicated and not really suited for what the artists needed. So it seems, that our program is really not a very good match to what the artists need.

At this point, there are a number of things we could. We could go back to the drawing board, start from scratch and rewrite our system according to what the artists need. We could also try to build in top of our existing program and try to add and modify it to bring its functionality close to what we need. However, we need to keep in mind, that we had also planned to use this system to create a automated urban planner. We still haven’t met with the architect yet, but it seems like our system might be a better fit for what she needs. But that doesn’t answer the question: what do we do?

Now if this were a real software project with a delivery deadline, this state of affairs would probably be a very bad thing. Luckily this is still very much a research project so there’s quite a lot of leeway. Unfortunately, we’re still not quite sure of what exactly we have to do. It seems that our general architecture is still valid and will work, however the details will have to be remade. We’ll need a new way to generate the patterns from the instructions, simply stitching together images won’t do. It is possible that we will need multiple drawing systems working on top and parallel to each other. The instruction language also needs to be changed to make it more suitable to the artists’ need. We currently have a system that is geared towards placement of individual large scale elements, and nothing that deals with simple pattern generation. Ideally we would need a blend of both.

At this point, it’s easy to get disheartened. After all, we’ve spent almost 3 weeks creating something that we just learned is pretty close to useless. On the flip side, we are certainly not going to get bored. From a personal standpoint, this has still been a success, I’ve learned about parsing methods and language design. The experience that I’ve gained will make it easier for me to help develop a language that is powerful enough to express everything that the artists want to, while not requiring them to spend days learning it. It also means that the next version will also hopefully be developed much faster and more smoothly than the previous two versions. I am going to make it my personal project to see how fast and efficiently we can develop subsequent versions.

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Published by

Shrutarshi Basu

Programmer, writer and engineer, currently working out of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.

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